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PSYC 235 Lecture Notes - Dyscalculia, Methylphenidate, Learning Disability

Course Code
PSYC 235
Christopher Bowie

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Chapter 14 Developmental Disorders
In this chapter we cover those disorders that are revealed in a clinically significant way during a child’s
developing years and that are of concern to families and educational systems.
For the most part: A child develops one skill before acquiring the next. This pattern of change implies that
any disruptions in the development of early skills will, by the very nature of this sequential process, disrupt
the development of latter skills. Knowing what processes are disrupted will help us understand the disorder
better and may lead to more appropriate intervention strategies.
- Attention Deficit/hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) - Involves characteristics of inattention or
hyperactivity and impulsivity, and learning disorders, which are characterized by one or more
difficulties in areas such as reading and writing.
- Autism A more severe disability, in which a child shows significant impairment in social
interactions and communication and restricted patterns of behaviour, interest, and activities.
- Mental Retardation - Involves significant deficits in cognitive abilities
- Primary characteristics of people include a pattern of inattention, such as not paying attention to
school or work-related tasks, or of hyperactivity and impulsivity. Many have a great deal of difficulty
sustaining their attention on a task or activity. Some also display motor hyperactivity, as well as
impulsivity (acting without thinking shouting out responses to questions before the prof is done)
- DSM differentiates two types of symptoms (one of them must be present to be diagnosed with ADHD)
o Problems of inattention
Appear not to listen to others
They may lose necessary assignments or books
May not pay attention to details, making careless mistakes
o Hyperactivity
Having trouble sitting for any length of time
Always being on the go
Impulsivity (blurting out answers before questions have been completed/ waiting turns)
- Academic performance tends to suffer and they engage in more frequent dangers & risky behaviours.
Children with ADHD are also likely to be unpopular and rejected by their peers, mostly because
inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity get in the way of establishing & maintaining friendships.
Thus, creating low self-esteem.
- Some ADHD symptoms should be present in childhood, before 7. They are identified as being different
from their peers around 3 or 4; their parents describe them as very active, mischievous, slow to toilet
train, and oppositional.
- 68% of children with ADHD have ongoing difficulties through adulthood
(Less impulsive, but driving difficulties due to inattention, speeding, or license suspended)
- Frequently comorbid with other disruptive behaviour disorders (Ex. ODD & conduct disorder)

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Chapter 14 Developmental Disorders
- ADHD is common in families in which one person has the disorder. Families display an increase in
psychopathology in general, including conduct disorder, mood & anxiety disorders, and substance
- Most attention is focused on genes associated with the neurochemical dopamine (and also serotonin).
Evidence shows ADAD is associated with the dopamine D4 receptor gene (the dopamine transporter
gene) and the dopamine D5 receptor gene.
- The overall size (volume) of the brain is smaller in children with ADHD, including smaller areas of the
frontal cortex, the basal ganglia and the cerebellar vermis (part of the back of the cerebellum).
ADHD is associated with maternal smoking. 3 times more likely to have a child with ADHD. Negative
response by parents or peers to the child’s impulsivity and hyperactivity may contribute to low self-esteem.
Biological and Psychosocial Interventions
- The goal of biological treatments is to reduce the children’s impulsivity and hyperactivity and to improve
their attention skills. Psychosocial treatments focus on broader issues such as improving academic
performance, decreasing disruptive behaviour, and improving social skills.
Psychostimulants include: Methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta), D-amphetamine & pemoline (works 70%)
- Stimulant medications appear to reinforce brain’s ability to focus attention during problem-solving tasks
Two main concerns regarding the use of stimulant medication:
Potential stimulant drug abuse
Methylphenidate are sometimes abused for their ability to create elation and reduce fatigue.
Medications may be overprescribed & long-term effects not well understood
Over-prescription effects might include insomnia, irritability and appetite suppression
- Most children who don’t respond to medications do not show gains in the important areas of academic and
social skills. <Insert Behavioural interventions to help children at home and school> The programs set such
goals as increasing the amount of time the child remains seated, increasing the number of math papers
completed, or engaging in appropriate play with peers. Reinforcement programs reward the children.
Reading Disorder A significant discrepancy between a person’s reading achievement and what would be
expected for someone of the same age (Ex. Dyslexia). It is required that the person read at a level significantly
below that of a typical person of the same age, cognitive ability (IQ test) and educational background.
Mathematics Disorder achievement below expected performance in mathematics
Disorder of written Expression achievement below expected performance in writing
Interfere with the student’s academic achievement and disrupts their daily activities

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Chapter 14 Developmental Disorders
- Learning disability is one of the two most common disabilities suffered by children up to 14 years of age.
Biological Cause (genetic basis) Parents and siblings of people with reading disorders are more likely to
display these disorders. Chromosomes 2, 3, 6, 15 and 18 seem to be linked.
- Psychological and motivational factors that have been reinforced by others seem to play an important role
in the eventual outcome for those with learning disorders. People with learning disabilities display very
different types of cognitive problems and therefore probably represent a number of etiological subgroups.
- Two common methods of assessing learning disorders is through two types of tests:
Intellectual tests (Ex. Wechsler intelligence Scales)
Achievement tests
and comparing the results of both.
- Biological treatment is typically restricted to those individuals who may also have ADHD, which we have
seen involves impulsivity and an inability to sustain attention, and which can be helped with certain
stimulant medications such as methylphenidate (Ritalin).
- Educational efforts can be categorized into:
1) Basic processing of problems (ex. by teaching students visual & auditory perception skills
2) Improve cognitive skills through general instruction in listening, comprehension and memory
3) Targeting behavioural skills needed to compensate for specific problems that student may have
Communication and Related Disorders
A disturbance in speech fluency that includes a number of problems with speech, such as repeating syllables
or words, prolonging certain sounds, making obvious pauses, or substituting words to replace ones that are
difficult to articulate.
Causes: Genetics, multiple brain pathways may be a factor
Treatment: Psychological parents are counseled about how to talk to their children
Regulated-breathing method (stop speaking when a stutter occurs and then take a deep breath)
Pharmacological Verapamil may decrease the severity of stuttering in some individuals
Limited speech in all situations; expressive language (what is said) is significantly below their average
receptive language (what is understood)
Causes: Psychological explanation = parents may not speak to their child enough
Biological theory = middle ear infection is a contributory cause
Treatments: Self-correcting / may not require special intervention
Persistent failure to speak in a very specific situation (like school), despite the ability to do so.
Causes: Anxiety is one possible cause, particularly social anxiety
Treatment: Contingency management giving children praise and reinforcers for speaking
Involuntary motor movements (tics/head twitching) or vocalizations (grunts) that come on suddenly.
In one type, Tourette’s disorder, vocal ties often include the involuntary repetition of obscenities.
Causes: Inherited dominant gene(s) Treatment: Psychological Self-monitoring, relaxation training
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